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Local organizations work to provide aid to homeless Grand Strand Veterans

Members of local nonprofit organizations and AARP hope to be able to provide services and information to more than 100 homeless veterans at the Stand Down at the Beach in September.

The event, part of a national program that began in 1988 in San Diego, aims to help homeless veterans access the resources available to them – including housing, work programs and other services.

Organizers are holding a press conference Tuesday morning to announce the event, which will be held Sept. 19 at the U.S. Army Reserve building at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.

Kris Tourtellotte with the Veteran’s Welcome Home and Resource Center said he’s wanted to hold an event in the Myrtle Beach area for years, but needed help organizing and funding the effort.

“A lot of veterans out there don’t know what services are available to them,” Tourtellotte said, a veteran who said he served three tours in Vietnam. “All they want to do is survive.”

Tourtellotte said his motorcycle club, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, will go out to areas that are known homeless camps to get the word out to those who need it.

“We’re going to be looking for the veterans to find them and let them know about [the Stand Down],” he said.

Getting the word out is important, Tourtellotte said, since many homeless veterans might not be able to learn of the event through traditional outlets like newspapers, radio and television. He’s asked people who know of homeless camps to contact him so that he and his club can go to them.

Doris Gleason, community outreach director for AARP, said there is a real need in Horry County for the Stand Down event.

She said she hopes to draw about 150 homeless veterans to the event.

“We’re going to give everyone free access to doctors, lawyers, mental health counselors,” Gleason said, adding that there will be representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well. “It’s all at no cost. And we’ll serve breakfast and lunch.”

Veterans will be asked to bring their military forms proving they served with them – if they have them. If not, Gleason said there will be computers at the event to verify that those who are there are, in fact, veterans.

Gleason said agencies ranging from Veterans Affairs to local nonprofits that work with the homeless will be at the event.

Kathy Jenkins, executive director of New Directions of Horry County, said it made sense for the group to take part in Stand Down. New Directions is a coalition of organizations in the Myrtle Beach-area that work with those who are homeless, in poverty or victims of domestic violence.

“It’s so important for people who are struggling to know what resources are available to them,” she said. “There are so many resources available in Horry County. ... [The event] is an opportunity for nonprofits to show what we do.”

New Directions will be providing personal grooming bags at the Stand Down, which will include things such as combs, toothpaste, shampoo and soap.

Gleason said those helping with the Stand Down range from groups such as New Directions to individual volunteers.

“I had a woman come up to me and say that she couldn’t do much but that she would make 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” she said, saying that every bit will help. “Everybody’s volunteering their time. The out pour from the community has been incredible.”

Jenkins said she’s always glad to see when people are willing to help those in need.

“It’s exciting because there’s always something going on in this very giving community,” she said.

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